A time for reflection, rest and regeneration.
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Edition: Shishira ritu (Jan â€“ Feb).
N e v e r
Winter from the Lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine T h e o r e t i c a l ly : S t i l l n e s s L i k e Water According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each season is associated with a different element: Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal and Water. The winter season is related with water, and just as water is tranquil and quiet, nature during the winter season is calm, peaceful and at rest. This resting time allows nature to work internally, and store energy in preparation for spring. This makes it a time for inward reflection: a time to replenish oneâ€™s mind, body and spirit. Just like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest with strength if our energy is dispersed or drained.
P h y s i c a l ly : I m a g i n e a Reservoir In the body, the organ systems associated with water are the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The kidneys are said to spark the energy of the entire body and are responsible for healthy teeth, bones and bone marrow. To keep the kidneys healthy, it is important to keep them warm and well hydrated. Thus, the key to a healthy winter is making sure the body is well clad; we advise particular focus on the lower back. Traditional Chinese Medicine imagines the urinary bladder as a reservoir where the waters in the body collect. When the bladder is not functioning properly, the entire system is in danger of filling up with toxic wastes. Depression, fatigue, or difficulty adapting to new circumstances are considered symptoms of an imbalance in this organ.
Acupuncture and herbal remedies, attention to diet, exercise and meditation can be used to revitalize the organ functions.
S p i r i t u a l ly : T h e Way s o f F e a r Water is associated with the emotion of fear. The positive element of fear is that it encourages us to remain alert; however, when there is a deficiency in the water energy, fear can manifest in to chronic anxiety or result in intense phobia. TCM believes that excess fear injures the kidney energy, which in turn, increases fear.
w i n t e r : t h i s b a l a n c e m i n d / b o d y/ s p i r i t a A c h i e v i n g
Take time: Use this time to rediscover more about yourself through reflection. Try reading, praying recording your dreams, meditation and/or keeping a journal. It doesnâ€™t have to be an intimidating exercise; even twenty minutes of a conscious time out will help.
Nourish Yourself: Drink plenty of water. Winter sucks moisture out of your body so it is very important to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Eat warming foods.
Get Rest: Winter is the time for us to recharge. Going to bed earlier than usual is key.
Practice Fluid Movement: Tai chi, qigong, yoga and dance practices that mimic the flow of water and are great for winter. These fluid exercises allow you to become more centered, aware of your breathing and aware of your inner-self.
Oil Your Body: Warm oil massages with moisturising oils like sesame seed, mustard seed, and almond will help in maintaining healthy blood circulation.
Winter Reading Recommendations 1. Ayurveda Encyclopedia by Swami Sadavisha Tirtha 2. The Complete Illustrated guide to Ayurveda by Dr. Deepika Gunawant
The Ayurvedic Winter Diet: Our Doctor Shares AGNI (roughtly translated as the digestive fire or metabolic potency) gains strength in the winter; agni is linked to the Pitta dosha which is like the power house for all metabolic process. We can think about an increase in fire as dual: while it is a source of strength, fire also consumes all the fuel that comes in contact with. Productive and destructive, fire needs to be balanced.
Here are some simple dietary tips for winter: - Add warming herbs and spices (like cinnamon) to your diet: use them to add flavor to your tea or dessert. - Consume foods that have a predominantly sweet or sour taste; this will help the the Agni to act as fuel and provide energy, heat, nourishment. - Choose more lentils, legumes and fats to keep the body in balance. - Avoid astringent and bitter foods to keep vata (the â€˜air doshaâ€™) in check. - Eat plenty of rice and cereals. - Keep alcohol intake to the minimum.
The Lives between us In these months we do see Golden backed woodpeckers Fly through our skies. In their papery flight, lie blessings, Ease, And reportage from a world beyond ours. In between our lives, we watch their moustache-like stripes Loosely organising our land in to yes and no; Urging us to think about what can come and what must go, In preparation for another Peaceful spring show And for the birds, we don’t miss the trees ‘Look at the Hong Kong Orchid Tree!’ are words always on the lips of the bees. For each day of this season, we are grateful for their flowers – Pur ple-ish, or maybe a deep shade of pink, Blossoms from the Divine that make us think.
A conversation between a Curious Explorer and an Expert on Ancient Wisdom At Vana, For the World
t e a
The Curious Explorer:
We hear the word MINDFUL all the time. At Vana and in the world outside. What does it really mean to be mindful? How can I be mindful when I am drinking a cup of tea?
W I S D O M
The Expert: Mindfulness is about focusing on the present, paying respect to the act that you are submerged in. Now, lets say, you are in fact drinking a cup of tea and want to do it mindfully. How will yotu do this? You will have to introduce some discipline in your thought. It is natural that while you are drinking your tea, your mind may wander — you may think of your dog, your boss, your girlfriend… what will happen in the process? You will veer away from the act of drinking tea. When you gain consciousness of this straying, and bring your mind back to the center, to the tea, you are acting mindfully.
The Curious Explorer So, does mindfulness mean not thinking so much?
The Expert We are not saying stop thinking (laughs). We are saying that multiple thoughts, about the past and the future, take away from the present. Thinking about the past often induces a kind of regret, whereas thinking about the future can introduce anxiety. The present is the only time that exists. Much stress is caused in us when we forget this. The Curious Explorer: If the present is the only time that exists, are we supposed to forget bad things that happen to us? Like a fight, or a time when we did something wrong ourselves?
The Expert It’s not that one forgets — we are not machines. But to use machine language, the goal is to re-wire ourselves so that from now, this moment on, we can stop a chain of bad karma and begin doing good deeds.
To start a new chain of good karma in the present is the result of mindful thinking. The Curious Explorer: What are good deeds? What are bad deeds?
The Expert: It is a tricky thing indeed, this good and bad. Let’s start simply: if we do something with the intention of harming another, or unconsciously, it can never be a good deed. Even if a fly or mosquito is ringing in your ear and you wave your hand in an attempt to kill it thoughtlessly, this is an act that is not done with consciousness, and it is not a ‘good deed’ no matter how annoying that mosquito is. However, consciousness is not the same thing as ownership.
The Curious Explorer Like in the case of charity?
The Expert Charity is only “good” when it is done without a desire for acknowledgement. It is good when it is done quietly, privately and from the heart. When one seeks recognition — even in the form of a pat on the back — charity loses its meaning as a good act. The Curious Explorer: It seems like a lot that you talk about is related to self-transformation. What do we do when something upset us? On a personal or national level? Like a fight with a partner or anger at your country for a certain political policy?
The Expert Thinking about the other and assigning blame to them is one of the key reasons why we feel stress, unhappiness, and a sense of imbalance. They key always — whether it is a small or big problem — is to self-reflect and look at one’s own “hardware” (again, I am using a machine term on purpose). When you are talking about the government and how some policies may upset you, you may think of yourself as very much outside of the process. But you are not. Think of your own self as part of change, and see what you can do in your own life, through every little action, to make the world better. What I am saying is look inside. The outside will reflect.
Conversations aT Vana At Communal Table “the saddest thing I heard was that cheese and eggs together don’t really go together; this means, I am really going to think hard about what my breakfast will now be. I’ve eaten this combination together for years” “every night if I eat something a little sweet before going to bed, I think of the day as complete.” ‘there is something about eating warm food that makes you a softer person I think… don’t you feel that it opens you up from the inside? If you eat cold, you feel cold, and you act cold… that’s what ive been thinking about. “my country is now basically run by a dictator. Actually so many countries are now run by dictators. It’s a tough time for the universe.” “today I went to the concerige in the morning and said, ‘hello I would like to book a car to go to Dehradun.’ There was a brief pause. He looked at me confused, and said: ‘Sir we are already in Dehradun’ (resounding laughter on the table).”
“my partner passed away a few years ago and ive been dealing with it in my own way. The most important thing I am working on now is how to be alone.” “my body has gone through a lot over the last few months thanks to IVF treatment that didn’t quite work. I came here because I wanted to tell myself that its not a machine that needs to be judged by what it can or cannot do; it’s a blessing, even when it does not work in the ways that doctors say it should.” “I haven’t really slept well in three years. I used to read a lot before I developed insomnia. Two nights ago, I read a full chapter before going to sleep. Then I dreamt of the character I was reading about. Finally, a lucid dream.” “I am not used to so much relaxation. Urban life prepares you for the opposite. To relax, I have to re-wire and that is all I am doing now.”
Vanavasi one: what do you do for work? Vanavasi two: many things. But right now I am just trying to get well. When I do, I’ll get on with what I really love doing -- interiors.’
By the Pool “ I am so curious about the monkeys here – they seem so organised.” “I made a small change to my life – I started getting up a little earlier everyday. I have been feeling much happier since. Less stressed, less impatient… its quite wonderful actually” “I work in an art museum in London. I am always thinking about paintings. Even when I am meditating, I think about colors, brushes, strokes… ways of seeing things” “I am stressed about going back to the city and thinking about what I have to wear again, all the time, everyday. Life would be so much simpler if we wore the same thing everyday.” “I’m so scared of failure. Even though it happens all the time, everyday.” “Its been a big winter. I partied like a rockstar. First in Sao Paolo, then in Bombay – I have friends in both cities. I’m here now, thinking about it all. I can’t tell you what I did exactly, but I have a feeling that time went by very, very quickly.” “Do you believe in coincidences? You know, I didn’t until the strangest thing happened to me this last month. I was on a trans-atlantic flight and seated next to me was my first cousin. I hadn’t seen her in about twenty years. The world is not small.. its tiny.”
ENLIGHTENED EXCERPT: WINTER WISDOM The legendary Yellow Emperor, who is considered to be the founder of Traditional Chinese Medicine, states in his ancient text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine:* “In winter all is hidden. Winter is the season of retirement into depth. At this time you must not disturb or disperse the yang (fire, active) energy so that you can allow the yin reserves to be re-established within you.” This depth—our core—is the place where we are afraid to journey, so in this season of darkness we try to fill it with what appears to be light. We celebrate the holidays, eat and drink heartily, socialise frequently, and try to avoid the aloneness that winter calls us in to, without realising that the entry to our inner world is most accessible during this time of the year. There is a well-known story of the Sufi wise man Mulla Nasruddin, who one night was combing through the dirt under a street lamp in front of his house. A passerby asked, “Mulla, what are you looking for?” “The keys to my house,” Mulla replied. So the two got on their hands and knees searching for the keys, and after another hour, the passerby asked, “Are you sure you dropped the keys here?” “Oh no,” said Mulla, “I dropped the keys inside my house.” Astonished, the passerby asked, “So why are we looking out here?” “Because this is where the light is,” replied Mulla. What this tale tells us is that the light not be exactly where you expect to find it. Search, and it will come.
Vaibhav Dubey, Vana’s Managing Director, Pauses to Reflect on His Journey
“Vana is about surrender,” he says, explaining his observation that people who benefit most are those who “give in” to the experience: this is the experience of giving in to a community
It’s a peaceful, sunny winter day when we sit down to chat with Vaibhav Dubey, Vana’s Managing Director.
that is about wellness, learning, service, and living amongst a sometimes unpredictable natural forest.
Against a warm sun, he pauses to reflect on his journey,
For Dubey, who had a long career in hotels, this chance to
and all the steps – small and large – that karmi-cally
“surrender” arrived as a kind of blessing – something he felt
got him to where he finds himself now: at the helm
when he first visited the property in 2014, to fill the role of a
of a wellness retreat which is always expanding much
Front Office Manager. “I knew Vana was an exception; I could
beyond this definition. ‘Vana is already a foundation, an
see how they were doing things differently…. For example, the
institute, a way of life…” Vaibhav begins, challenging
smiles I saw on the team’s faces were genuine; this is quite
the limits of trying to define his property, his work, and
unlike the words of five star hotels where you get many more
now his home.
smiles, but they are devoid of feeling, empty.” Moreover, through this palpable authenticity, Dubey also felt that Vana
Winter is a good time to reflect, and coincidentally,
would not just fill his professional goals but a lifelong one too:
Dubey’s favorite season. The combination of cold
doing things for others.
temperature and warm sun conjures up for him memories of his childhood in Kanpur, where he would
As he talks about Vana’s plans, and his own, in the years to
sit amongst his family and friends, indulging in fresh
come, Dubey is open, fluid, and at the same time, ambitious:
guavas and flavored peanuts. While his busy life no
“we want to become the best institution in the world.. but a
longer allows him to chill like he used to, for him Vana’s
one of a kind institution. We have no one to compare ourselves
winter is “natural” because it embraces the change of
with. Our goal is to move forward and become a place where
season. “Rather than creating an artificial climate, in or
our values can co-exist with changes… we want to be a place
outdoors, we try and align ourselves with the outside,
where ‘goodness’ – whether through spirituality or work – is
the real temperatures, as much as possible.” Though we
natural, rather than forced upon you.” For this, he says, one
are ostensibly talking about weather here, it is a fitting
internal rule will remain consistent throughout our journey:
metaphor for Dubey’s ideas about Vana.
“We will always share Vana, not sell it.”
A Very Winter Recipe Quinoa Beetroot Risotto, From Vanapurna Food For Thought Mindfulness is at the heart of Vana’s food philosophy. We consider the simple acts of cooking and eating food to be divine practices. Whether its farming ingredients for the new season, picking fresh produce, steaming vegetables, or plating a dish, we try to immerse ourselves in each step along the journey with passion and the continuing search for wisdom. In articulating this philosophy, Chef Rajesh tells us: “We always ask ourselves: is this recipe interesting, wholesome, flavorful, and nutritious – all at the same time? Is this a dish that is not just good looking, but good for us? Is this a dish that is aligned with the season, and sensitive to the context in which it is being made? Is this a food that is a delight to make, and a delight to serve? Does it connect cook and eater?” Our first recipe we would like to share with you is a Quinona Beetroot Risotto – one of most loved, winter dishes. This recipe, like all, has been developed in consultation with our ayurvedic doctors.
The Beet Generation Both quinoa and beets belong to a family of plants that are related, and which grow best in the winter. Therefore, cooking and eating this recipe in this season is one step to aligning the self with nature. For this recipe, and all through winter, we recommend using the freshest beets possible. We consider beets to be small miracles that are amazing for the heart and blood circulation.
Cool As Quinoa This recipe is both delicious and extremely nutritious, thanks largely to our replacement of pasta with quinoa. Quinoa is an ayurvedic superfood or a â€˜triodoshik,â€™ which pacifies all three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). Eating quinoa, especially in the winter, allows us to maintain healthy low blood sugar levels, while providing more satisfaction and fullness compared to wheat or rice. Quinoa is also very high in magnesium, which is super important food to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
Quinoa and Beetroot Risotto With Gram Flour Crisps Nutritional Information (per serving) Calories 308, Fat 4 g, Carbohydrate 52 g, Protein 11 g, Fiber 9 g | Options to make this dish gluten free, vegan, or nut free Good For: Lunch or Dinner Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Ingredients 2 tbsp. olive oil 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic 1 tbsp. finely chopped onion 2 sprigs of fresh thyme ¼ cup cooked and diced beetroot 1 cup quinoa (cooked) ½ cup beetroot puree (recipe below) 1 medium sized cooked beetroot, peeled and cut into 8 to 10 wedges sea salt to taste Pepper to taste 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (optional) ½ cup green peas (blanched) 1 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese (optional) 5 to 6 gram flour crisps (recipe below)
Instructions 1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and onion, stir with a spatula till the onions turn translucent. Add the diced beetroot, fresh chopped thyme, and sauté for two to three minutes. 2. Add the cooked quinoa, beetroot puree, sea salt and pepper. Mix well and keep stirring over a low flame. After the quinoa reaches a risotto-like consistency, you can add the grated parmesan cheese if you wish. Skip this step if you’d like to keep the recipe vegan. 3. Remove the mix from the flame, give a nice stir, and keep warm. 3. In a separate pan, heat few drops of oil and sauté the green peas with a small pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cooked peas on top of the risotto. 4. In the same pan, sauté the beetroot wedges with a little salt and pepper. Arrange the cooked beets on top of the quinoa risotto. 5. Finish with a generous handful of crumbled feta cheese (again, this is optional) and add gram flour crisps to top (see recipe below)
Ruby Red Beetroot Puree
Ingredients 1 cup raw beetroot (diced) 1 medium onion (diced) Vegetable Stock (3/4 cup) 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic ½ cup celery, diced ½ cup leek, diced 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp sea salt
Instructions Heat oil in a sauce pan, add onion and garlic, and sauté until light brown. Then, add the diced leek and celery and sauté for few more minutes, until the mix is caramelised. Now, add the beetroot and sea salt, and sauté for few more minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cover till the beetroot is cooked well. Remove the pan from flame and allow it to cool down. Place the mix in blender to make a fine puree. Pass through a fine strainer and reserve remaining mix for later use.
Crunchy Gram Flour Crips
Ingredients 100 grams, gram flour (besan) Â˝ tbsp turmeric Sea salt to taste Water, as required
Instructions 1. Take the gram flour in a bowl and add turmeric and salt. Then, start adding water little by little, till a smooth, batter like consistency is achieved. 2. Pour the gram flour batter on a flat heated griddle and spread it so that it resembles a thin crepe. 3. Let it cook on slow flame. After it settles, remove the crepe with a flat spatula and let it dry. Decorate the risotto with these crunchy, flavorful delights.
This winter we wish that you Seize the sun like the stream of hibiscus flowers that dot our paths. Percieve the light that runs through the shadows after sunset. Probe a history, like the pigeons who visit Anayu at noon. Retreat in to peace, for a long afternoon, or lifetime Saunter, like when you were here last, not particularly with purpose.
MEMORIES AND FLOWERS On the 4th of December, two Vanavasis walked around the retreat noting the flowers in bloom. We wrote down what each one evoked in their memories: Annatto Vanavasi 1: a young girls birthday Vanavasi 2: passion fruit ice cream Marigold, Fallen Vanavasi 1: a wedding from yesterday Vanavasi 2: India everyday Wild Purple Flower Vanavasi 1: lavender soap Vanavasi 2: eyelashes Desi Rose, Shedding Vanavasi 1: an ending romance Vanavasi 2: my motherâ€™s perfume Red Passion Flower Vanavasi 1: Japan? Vanavasi 2: Yes, I agree, somewhere like Japan.
The Metta Sutta: The Buddhaâ€™s words on loving kindness
This is what should be done By one who is skilled in goodness, And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, Straightforward and gentle in speech. Humble and not conceited, Contented and easily satisfied, Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways. Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, Not proud and demanding in nature. Let them not do the slightest thing That the wise would later reprove. Wishing: in gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be, Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to be born â€”
May all beings be at ease.
Let none deceive another, Or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world: Spreading upwards to the skies, And downwards to the depths; Outwards and unbounded, Freed from hatred and ill-will. Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down Free from drowsiness, One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding. By not holding to fixed views, The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, Being freed from all sense-desires, Is not born again into this world.
- excerpt taken from Without and Within by Ajahn Jayasaro
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